Dealing With Chimney Odors? Our Techs Offer Troubleshooting

If you’ve dealt with bad odors in your chimney, you know there’s nothing like the musty, moldy smells that can come from a dirty fireplace. What causes these smells? And how can you get rid of them? Our team is here with answers.

Fireplace smells usually come from creosote deposits in your chimney, which is a natural byproduct of burning wood, and they are usually worse in the summer when the humidity is high (like on rainy days) or when the air conditioning is running strong.

Having your chimney swept may help minimize your fireplace smells, but might not solve the problem altogether. Why not? Creosote particles absorb into the porous masonry construction inside your chimney, embedding the fireplace smell beyond the masonry’s surface (similar to the way the inside of your firebox is stained black with use).

If you have odors and don’t know how to get rid of them, never fear. Winston’s Chimney Service has been serving the Northern VA area for decades, and we’d love to help you out too. We can handle your repair services, inspections, sweepings, and more.

How Often Should I Clean My Chimney and Fireplace to Keep it from Smelling?

The frequency of sweeping your chimney, fireplace, or wood stove will largely depend on how often you are using it. If you use your fireplace or wood-burning appliance every day during cold winter months, it’s recommended to have your chimney professionally swept for every cord of wood burned to remove soot buildup and keep smells under control.

However, if the fireplace is only used periodically throughout the year, or only on special occasions or festivals, then booking chimney sweepings on an annual basis should be sufficient.

Performing regular maintenance once you know there are no hot or burning coals left in the firebox, can make a big difference in keeping your fireplace in good working order and odor-free too. We suggest doing the following:

  • cleaning debris from the grate,
  • removing ash with an ash shovel and depositing it in a metal container
  • making sure there is no other debris present in the firebox

If you are having issues with a smelly chimney or fireplace that smells like a campfire, please do not hesitate to call Winston’s Chimney Service and schedule an appointme for us to come out and help get the odors eliminated. Call us at 703-379-5006 today.

Are Fireplace Smells Dangerous to My Health?

Fireplace smoke may not be the most pleasant scent, but is it dangerous? It depends on a few factors. Generally speaking, indoor air pollution caused by home fireplaces is only truly hazardous if the smoke isn’t being drawn up and away from living spaces, as designed. So, a bad smell shouldn’t be something to be too worried about in terms of health.

That said, if you’re feeling symptoms such as a sore throat or chest tightness after being exposed to fireplace smoke or smells, it could mean that toxic particles from incomplete combustion were present in the air, and you should look into making sure your fireplace operates more efficiently.

Keep in mind, too, that burning things other than firewood can also elevate indoor air levels of carbon monoxide and other unhealthy particles. Therefore, it’s important to make sure your home follows prescribed safety guidelines when operating a fireplace and takes any measures necessary to improve efficiency and reduce pollutant emissions.

Why Does My Chimney Smell When It Rains?

Have you noticed a musty smell coming from your fireplace when it rains? Unfortunately, this is all too common – and the most likely reason is that water is getting easy access to the inside of the chimney. When moisture combines with any creosote that has built up inside of the flue, smelly gases can be released, and can then end up lingering in your living space.

Make sure to get your chimney inspected by a professional and certified chimney technician, like the crew members here at Winston’s, to determine what measures will be necessary to repair any existing damage and remove creosote that’s formed. We can also help you prevent future leaks from occurring, ensuring water stays at bay. Once that excess moisture is mitigated, the smell should drastically subside.

What Is Creosote & Why Does it Smell?

So, we’ve mentioned that creosote can be a cause of odors, but… what is it exactly? Creosote is a tar-like substance that builds up inside of chimneys when wood or wood products are burned. Essentially, the smoke from the burning materials condenses in the lining of the chimney, leaving behind particles that harden into creosote – and the amount of creosote you’ll have increases with each use.

The reason why creosote smells so strongly is due to its combination of wood tar and other smoky vapors – and this odor can be overpowering if left unchecked or mixed with water.

Is creosote dangerous?

Yes, creosote can be very dangerous if it’s not regularly swept out. In addition to creating a bad smell, creosote is flammable, which means the more you have, the higher your chances are of experiencing a chimney fire. It’s important to book annual inspections of your chimney to make sure the creosote buildup is kept at a minimal level – or else you could be putting yourself and your home at risk. 

Creosote can even cause blockages if too much forms, inhibiting proper ventilation needed for your fireplace to burn correctly. If a certified chimney technician sees that creosote levels are high, they will clean/sweep the chimney and, if needed, apply non-toxic chemicals to dry out the remaining creosote, sweeping it again until it’s removed.

Why Does My Fireplace Smell Like Smoke When I’m Not Using It?

Why do you smell smoke when nothing is smoking? Chances are, your fireplace is still emitting some smoke – even when not in active use – due to the warm, dense particles lingering in the environment. Since a fireplace tends to produce a large amount of soot, charcoal, and tars during regular use, the residue remains within the chimney flue and escapes into your home, even when there is no fire burning. 

On top of this, insufficient airflow can trap more smoke particles within the home’s ventilation system and eventually throughout your home.

Smelling something musty?

Sometimes homeowners experience less of a smoke smell and more of a musty odor – and again this might occur in the off-season. Unfortunately, the low usage of your fireplace can be a major contributor to the unpleasant smell. When excess moisture becomes trapped inside the chimney and begins to accumulate in places like the smoke shelf, it creates an ideal environment for mold and mildew to develop… which can then lead to unpleasant smells.

If left untreated, that musty odor can permeate your home, and you might notice health problems due to mold spores in the air too. Be sure to book your annual chimney and fireplace inspections after every burning season, and invest in sweepings, even if you’re not using the system heavily. 

Not only will this help prevent a musty smell, but it can make sure you’re burning fuel safely when you are using the unit too.

Why Does My Chimney Smell in the Summertime?

During the summer months, many homeowners experience a strange, pungent smell coming from their chimneys. It’s important to understand why this is happening and how you can prevent it in the future.

Animals in your flue?

Now, one effective way to get rid of chimney smells during the summertime is to have your chimney inspected by a certified chimney sweep for any signs of animal inhabitants. If nesting is found, or if any animals got stuck and passed away, your techs can take care of it right away. 

If the animals are alive (and not chimney swifts, a federally protected bird), then an animal removal company will need to be called out. Once the live animal is removed, consider installing a chimney cap with a screen over the top of your chimney. 

And if there are chimney swifts? Then, you will have to wait until they fly south in the fall before your chimney can be secured in a way that they will not return the following year.

Air pressure issues?

The other issue that may be happening is a pressure issue. This happens when homeowners start sealing windows and doors or installing new insulation. As air moves down through your chimney, it brings the inner fireplace smells & chimney odors along with it.  It is likely that your chimney is just the victim of a negative pressure problem.

Basement fireplaces are the biggest culprit because the lowest level of your home has the highest levels of negative pressure. The basic concept is that the more air-tight your home, the less air exchange (or make-up air) can enter your home. Older, draftier homes do not experience these problems as much because air is entering from many other places.  Once these areas are sealed, the path of least resistance is the chimney.

Remember, homes are living, breathing entities and they need air to thrive. When that gets taken away from one area, it draws from another.

Talk to your Winston’s Chimney Service certified technician about some fixes for this issue. The bottom line is this – taking preventive steps such as these can help keep your home free from unpleasant scents not just in the summer but all season long!

Why Does My House Smell Like Soot?

If you’ve noticed an unpleasant burning smell emanating from your fireplace, it might be a soot buildup issue. Soot is a black powder-like substance that can accumulate in the chimneys for fireplaces and wood stoves, and even on walls and ceilings near where smoke vents from the fireplace before entering the chimney.

While some creosote – another name for soot – is produced naturally by using a fireplace, too much of it can cause chimneys to become blocked. It can also be combustible and present a safety hazard. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to reduce soot buildup in your home like getting your unit swept by a certified sweep on an annual basis. Usually doing this one thing habitually will eliminate any unwanted odors coming from your burning fires.

We also suggest ensuring you always have proper airflow, burning hotter fires, and using only properly seasoned wood to fuel your fires – all of these things keep creosote levels at a minimum.

Why Do I Smell Smoke in the Room Above the Fireplace?

Smoke rises, so you may notice its smell in the room above a fireplace. Chimneys work by using physics principles known as updrafts, where warm air creates lift and carries heavier smoke particles upwards – this negates the pull of gravity that would cause them to fall downwards instead.

Thus, if you live near or above a working fireplace, be aware that you may encounter some wisps of smoke coming through your vents or walls. If the walls are hot, though, extinguish the fire immediately and call the fire department to make sure you are not experiencing a chimney fire

Choose the Best – Work With the Team at Winston’s

Every home presents unique challenges, and our technicians have been solving these problems for our customers since 1978. We have an excellent track record, and we’re proud to offer personalized care that homeowners can feel good about. If you need chimney repair services or troubleshooting, we’re the team to trust.

Call us today or contact us online. We’d love the chance to wow you.


Our chimney and masonry repair crews can help with all your chimney relining needs, so give us a call today.

Winston's Chimney Service
11301 Industrial Road
Manassas, VA 20109